Long live learning! The academies that pioneer in lifelong learning – Ghent University

Nova Academy strengthens the offer of lifelong learning in Flanders

Nova Academy was christened last year. The partnership between UGent, UAntwerp and VUB can be seen as an overall information platform. It provides a structured overview of the advanced programs offered by the three universities. The aim is to strengthen the supply of lifelong learning in Flanders.

It is necessary because in Flanders we have been lagging behind for years in lifelong learning. However, there is a great need for it in the labor market. Therefore, in 2020, the Flemish government decided to focus more on the learning culture in Flanders. At the end of December last year, she presented the action plan ‘Set course for a learning Flanders’.

Nova Academy therefore centralizes the offer of the three universities, but it is a conscious choice on the part of Ghent University to leave the academies in the hands of the faculties. The responsibility for organizing and implementing the offer remains with the various faculty and inter-faculty academies. In this way, the training is organized at the source: where the research takes place and new knowledge is created.

For some faculties, the acceleration around lifelong learning means a continuation of what they were already doing. For others, it is a new step.

Dunant Academy (Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences)

“Focus more on micro-credentials”

The Faculty of Psychology and Education established the Dunant Academy in the middle of last year. “The range of lifelong learning was already very extensive,” says the director Bart Vancoppenolle† ”For example, five of the nine departments have arranged permanent educations for years. These are often quite intensive, such as the four-year therapy courses. We are now exploring how we can expand, optimize and professionalize that offering. Dunant Academy primarily serves as the engine of our faculty offerings.

With our courses, we primarily focus on alumni. It is a very diverse audience: from psychologists to auxiliary educators and social workers. Everyone with their own specific needs. We are now mapping this diversity: Since the spring, two new employees have started at Dunant Academy, who are helping to design a methodology for this.

A challenge lies in how we can finance the educations that are not supported and offer them at an attractive registration amount to cover the costs. Our alumni often work in the social profit sector, where the budget for continuing education is limited. That is one of the reasons why we are now actively looking for collaborations. Furthermore, in connection with the recognition of the profession of clinical psychologist and clinical remedial educator, we want to contribute to professionalization through post-academic education.

Bart Vancoppenolle: “In addition, we want to focus more on shorter routes in the future: the micro-credentials† These are mini-courses, eg a combination of a few courses from an existing course, to which an evaluation component and certificate are also attached. Discussions are currently underway on about five microprograms in different departments. The subject pedagogical didactics in combination with motivational psychology can, for example, be interesting for high school teachers. ”

Academy of Veterinary Medicine (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine)

“Strive for an innovative offer”

The Academy of Veterinary Medicine is based on a long tradition. “Although, of course, a lot has changed in terms of technical capabilities,” he says Bart De Poortere† He provides technical support in the auditoriums and live streaming.

“I can say with some pride that the Academy of Veterinary Medicine is a pioneer in digital lessons. It must have been about thirteen years now that we have offered online courses. Because we have been investing in digital lessons for such a long time, we felt a while ago a need to completely renew our website. Two and a half years ago, we launched our new platform. Just before the pandemic, the world flattened out.

The platform is useful for all users: both teachers and students can easily find information. Today, a number of other academies work with the same platform. It’s very interesting: we learn a lot from each other. We now also have a working group with all academies and can easily share our experiences.

Our faculty has a fine tradition of continuing education. I think we have been offering graduate courses for about a quarter of a century now. Our primary target group is veterinarians, such as for our rather intensive ‘specialist veterinarian’ training. In the physiotherapy courses, on the other hand, there are mainly physiotherapists. We also have many courses for other interested parties, such as beekeepers or blacksmiths.

Bart De Poortere: “We continue to strive for an innovative offering that can attract a wider audience through the Nova Academy. We note that corona in particular has given the digital courses a boost, we want to ensure that physical hours also find their way back to the classroom. It can be of great added value to, for example, catch up with veterinarians during the break or network. ”

FEB Academy (Faculty of Economics)

Greater need for new competencies

FEB Academy had a soft launch in June last year. The instructor is research assistant Christophe Vanhee. “We are the focal point for everything that has to do with lifelong learning,” he says. “Colleagues come to us with ideas that we help facilitate. Sometimes we contact teachers to make a program together – if we, for example. get a concrete question from working life. We want to be the link between colleagues and the professional field.

Here and there there were colleagues who systematically organized training courses, but for many others it is completely new. We want to change that with the academy. This, of course, fits into Ghent University’s strategic policy plan for lifelong learning.

At the same time, we felt the need from society. People no longer stay with the same employer throughout their careers. They are more likely to find themselves in other positions – which requires new skills. We try to sense what is going on through companies that we work closely with with antennas and respond to this as much as possible.

Christophe Vanhee: “Our greatest strength is the close relationship between education and scientific research. This is how it is in general education, but certainly also in lifelong learning. Therefore, it is a strategic choice not to organize education with external lecturers. Of course. With guest speakers, but only if the topic is really related to research in our departments. All courses are organized in collaboration with a ZAP in-house. “

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